Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Dust Falls on E. Schlumberger/Toddler on the Run (Mackay) 336

The first book I picked up from my binge of books (I quite like that phrase for describing over purchase, although really a book binge would more accurately describe overconsumption), was a slim volume containing two novellas by Shena Mackay. It's the second time I've "done" Shena Mackay on this blog, although I am familiar with some of her later writing, which has even featured on my other blog.

The two novellas are Dust Falls on E. Schlumberger and Toddler on the Run and were apparently Mackay's first books to be published. If you enjoy 1960s depictions of working class life, then you will probably be intrigued by these - I liked them, but not as much as I enjoyed Nell Dunn's books which are somewhat similar, perhaps because there is less scope with a novella than with something longer.

The first book was the one that I liked best. It tells of the schoolgirl Abigail, and her lover Eugene, who rebellious against authority, go joy riding. They crash the car and Eugene is sent to prison. This only fuels Abigail's adolescent torments. It was a good insight into adolescent angst and made me wonder about Mackay's teenage years!

Toddler on the run is more disjointed; there are several stories running through the novella whichI found it a little difficult to keep track of. Primarily though it is the story of a very small man, who is less than four feet tall, and the relationship he has on the run with a girl called Leda. It was adapted for television, and I think the different threads would work quite well there, as they do in soap operas.

This book has been published not only in the original green edition which I picked up (and which I think has an extremely striking cover image), but also in a modern version too. Many of Mackay's other books have been published by Virago, although only this and Music Upstairs are VMCs.

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